The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Suspect and the ‘Usual Suspects’

Posted on | January 10, 2011 | 29 Comments

The TV in my office is tuned to MSNBC this afternoon, and there was just a report about a proposed law that would make it a federal crime to use threatening language against a member of Congress.

Jonathan Turley says this was suggested by Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), and I’m tempted to write very ugly things about Brady, just on general principle. Hey, let’s all threaten members of Congress while it’s still legal, right?

This Tucson shooting is just about the only thing the blogs are talking about today, so I don’t suppose there’s much point writing about anything else. I’ll just aggregate and comment:

I’ll update with more in a minute. Michael Smerconish was just on MSNBC talking about “civil discourse.” We ought to have a drinking game, where you take a drink every time someone uses those kinds of cliches.

UPDATE: I was talking to another political reporter today, and we discussed the idea of going to Arizona (which some commenters here had suggested). But this is the kind of story where actual reporters on the scene are doing good work, and there’s not much value-added to show up two days after the event just to become another warm body in the scrum. As an example of good reporting by the regular media, there’s an excellent Associated Press profile of Loughner with information like this:

Loughner’s alienation from his friends was gradual.
The Loughner they met when he was a freshman at Mountain View High School may have been socially awkward, but he was generally happy and fun to be around. The crew smoked marijuana every day . . .
Once, during school lunch break as a junior, he downed so much tequila that he came back to class, within five minutes passed out cold, had to be rushed to the hospital and “almost died,” one friend said.

That’s significant: He was “awkward” — a term that describes a lot of high school freshmen — and tried to fit in by using drugs and alcohol. This maladaptive behavior was part of a gradual alienation from his friends, and no one seemed to realize where it might lead, until he was such a wackjob that he had to be banned from his college campus. His former philosophy professor recognized Loughner’s madness:

“Yeah, that’s him,” says Kent Slinker, when I read him some of Loughner’s syllogisms over the phone. “That kind of nonsensical, disconnected thinking.” Slinker, an adjunct philosophy professor at Pima Community College, taught Loughner in Introduction to Logic during the spring semester of 2010. Slinker’s impression of Loughner was that of “someone whose brains were scrambled.”

“Civility” can’t cure schizophrenia.

UPDATE II: Andrew Klavan at City Journal:

Judging from his website, I would guess that Jared Lee Loughner suffers from schizophrenia. . . .
I wasn’t going to write anything about the incident because — unlike, say, the frequent and ongoing atrocities inspired by the very intent of Islamism or Communism — it didn’t seem to be a murder caused by any sort of coherent idea. . . .
But while little useful can be said about the murders themselves, the rush to narrative of our dishonest and increasingly desperate leftist media does have to be addressed. The Left — which has been unable to discover any common feature uniting acts of Islamist violence worldwide — nonetheless instantly noticed a bridge between the Tucson shooting and its own political opponents. The Chicago Sun-Times ran a slavering editorial blaming “the right.” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson suggested that the killings were inspired by right-wing rhetoric.

Exactly. It is the liberals who rushed to judgment Saturday and Sunday, fabricating a “right-wing” motive where no such motive existed, who need to explain and apologize for that error. Yet if they were capable of understanding their own errors of judgment, they wouldn’t be liberals, would they?

Meanwhile, the WaPo‘s Greg Sargent knocks down another red herring: Department of Homeland Security officials “have not established any such possible link” between Loughner and American Renaissance. Sargent implies that Fox News made up the link, but I’ve published the text of the purported DHS memo, which raises the question: Who wrote that memo?

UPDATE III: Greg Sargent also has an interview with Paul Begala:

“What has been striking has been their defensiveness and lack of introspection,” Begala said of right wing commentators. “Even if this was simply the delusional act of a madman, there’s no harm in reassessing, by saying, `Holy smokes, what are we doing here?'”

“Defensiveness”! The Left attacks, attacks, and attacks, and the minute you dare talk back to them, they get all indignant: “Why are you being so defensive?”

From Markos Moulitsas to Paul Krugman to Keith Olbermann, many of the leading voices of liberalism utterly disgraced themselves in their rush to play “Pin the Tail on Palin” Saturday, and Paul Begala can’t even be bothered to notice.

No, to Paul Begal, the problem is always with conservatives. Yet it was Begala and his Clintonista colleagues who developed “the permanent campaign” mode of politics to a high art form in the 1990s. (Where did they get that idea? Was it merely a coincidence that The Permanent Campaign was the title of a 1982 book by Sidney Blumenthal?) But far be it from liberals to urge their fellow liberals to do some “introspection” of their own.

UPDATE IV: Loughner didn’t even bother to vote in the 2010 election. It would seem rather difficult to claim that he was incited to murder by “vitriolic” rhetoric, yet couldn’t be incited to vote.


29 Responses to “The Suspect and the ‘Usual Suspects’”

  1. MD ConStrat
    January 10th, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    “But far be it from liberals to urge their fellow liberals to do some “introspection” of their own.”

    That’s exactly what Olbermann did in his commentary, but your readers would never know it from your fulminations.

  2. MD ConStrat
    January 10th, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    Finally, a conservative defense against the left’s attacks that actually makes some sense. Conor Friedersdorf (h/t Sullivan):

    “But even the conservatives who defend Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, D’Souza, McCarthy, and so many others don’t behave as if they believe all the nonsense they assert. The strongest case against these people isn’t that their rhetoric inspires political violence. It’s that they frequently utter indefensible nonsense. The problem isn’t their tone. It’s that the substance of what they’re saying is so blinkered that it isn’t even taken seriously by their ideological allies (even if they’re too cowardly, mercenary or team driven to admit as much).

    “They’re in a tough spot these days partly because it’s impossible for them to mount the defense of their rhetoric that is true: ‘I am a frivolous person, and I don’t choose my words based on their meaning. Rather, I behave like the worst caricature of a politician. If you think my rhetoric logically implies that people should behave violently, you’re mistaken – neither my audience nor my peers in the conservative movement are engaged in a logical enterprise, and it’s unfair of you to imply that people take what I say so seriously that I can be blamed for a real world event. Don’t you see that this is all a big game? This is how politics works. Stop pretending you’re not in on the joke.'”

  3. MD ConStrat
    January 10th, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

    Mike – Time will tell, won’t it? Just as we’ll just have to wait and see if RSM takes Smittty’ “forgiveness” invocation to heart . . .